Gender and venture capital decision-making: the effects of technical background and social capital on entrepreneurial evaluations

Soc Sci Res. 2015 May:51:1-16. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.12.008. Epub 2014 Dec 19.


Research on gender and workplace decision-making tends to address either supply-side disparities between men's and women's human and social capital, or demand-side differences in the status expectations of women and men workers. In addition, this work often relies on causal inferences drawn from empirical data collected on worker characteristics and their workplace outcomes. In this study, we demonstrate how tangible education and work history credentials - typically associated with supply-side characteristics - work in tandem with cultural beliefs about gender to influence the evaluative process that underlies venture capital decisions made in high-growth, high-tech entrepreneurship. Using an experimental design, we simulate funding decisions by venture capitalists (VCs) for men and women entrepreneurs that differ in technical background and the presence of important social ties. We demonstrate the presence of two distinct aspects of VCs' evaluation: that of the venture and that of the entrepreneur, and find that the gender of the entrepreneur influences evaluations most when the person, rather than the venture, is the target of evaluation. Technical background qualifications moderate the influence of gendered expectations, and women receive more of a payoff than men from having a close contact to the evaluating VC. We discuss the implications for future research on gender and work.

Keywords: Gender; Gender bias; Social psychology; Technology; Venture capital.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Capital Financing
  • Decision Making
  • Entrepreneurship*
  • Female
  • Financing, Organized*
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Science
  • Sexism*
  • Social Capital*
  • Technology
  • Work*